My restless ways had me jumping in the jeep and heading up the Chumash Highway. I toyed with Los Olivos, Solvang and the vistas off the highway (overlooking Bradbury Dam and Lake Cachuma) before having my fill of driving. Despite the traffic and construction, it was a nice mental reboot. While I can’t say that genius will surely follow my wanderings, it did re-inspire a desire to travel. And that can’t be bad!
A decision to enjoy a picnic in the park ended up including an unexpected surprise: Polo!
I’ll admit that I’ve never seen polo played live prior to Saturday. I still couldn’t swear to what the rules actually are, but enjoyed trying to figure it out. There are definitely worse ways to spend a Saturday afternoon than munching on cheese and bread while watching polo under a clear SoCal sky. And it was all free!
The matches are played up at Will Rogers State Historic Park. If you don’t want to hike up to the park, you can pay to park on the grounds right by the polo fields for $12. I highly recommend checking it out.
Thanks to my freelance job, I’ve discovered two new (to me) restaurants on Melrose Ave in Los Angeles. Naturally, I thought that they needed to be shared immediately.
Franco on Melrose
6919 Melrose Ave., Los Angeles
The first is a new-ish restaurant called Franco on Melrose. The chef and owner, Franco DeDominicis was the Executive Chef at the Biltmore Hotel. The main eating area is entirely outside in a beautiful courtyard. I hesitated to go in for lunch because I’m on a tight budget, but I thought I’d give it a whirl anyway (plus, I love Italian food). I had the penne arrabiata, and not only was it delicious, but the small portion (which is more than enough for me) was less than $10. That’s less than I was spending some days at the more fast-food places in the neighborhood (and far better for me). Plus, there’s just something about the ambiance that I really liked. I’ve actually been back a couple of times since, and everything I’ve had has been good.
There are a couple of caveats. First, they don’t have their liquor license yet. The keyword there is “yet.” But that’s coming, and they do allow you to bring your own wine in for a very, very small corkage fee. The second is because it is an outdoor dining area, extremely hot weather could be a problem. Honestly, I was there on two days where it was in the high 80s and had no problem (there are fans). But if you are delicate, you might want to wait until it’s under 80. There is stylized draped roofing, so you are protected if it rains.
Don’t let either of these things stop you. The food is good. It’s entirely reasonable in terms of cost and everyone there is extremely nice and helpful. Go!
Stir Crazy Coffee House
6903 Melrose Ave, Los Angeles
This is a new discovery to me, but it’s pretty obvious that the locals love it. I heard the coffee is amazing, but I’m not a coffee drinker, so I couldn’t swear to it. I can tell you that they have some amazing breakfast goodies and lunch-time sandwiches that have me visiting frequently.
But even more than the food, the place is a hideaway on a busy street that you would not expect. The first time I went in there I was struck not by the locally-sourced art hangings, the rustic decor or the music (I believe Sinatra was playing that day), but how cozy the place felt. And it isn’t manufactured cozy; it just is. And it’s a great place to work. Don’t take my word for it, take a look around. Anytime you walk into the place the tables are loaded with people on their laptops working on the great American novel or screenplay. It’s quiet, inspiring and feels like a welcoming creative community is just inside those doors.
Arts, Broad Fest, Crossroads School Jazz Ensemble, Free events for family, La Santa Cecilia, Music, Santa Monica College, Santa Monica College Emeritus Gospel Community Chorus, The Broad Stage, Theater
People often complain about not feeling connected to a community when they live in Los Angeles. There are neighborhoods, but the claim is that there is rarely a mixing of cultures. While I can see that point, I think I’ve been fortunate enough to enjoy what the city has to offer regardless of where my home base has been. It might take more effort than in some cities, but there are real opportunities out there to enjoy the cultural benefits of the city.
The Broad Stage in Santa Monica was offering one of these experiences this weekend. As a way of introducing the community to their upcoming music, dance and theater programs, The Broad Stage held Broad Fest, a free celebration of the arts. There were food trucks and performing groups in both the outside courtyard and the Edye (the smaller stage space).
It was a beautiful day, and my friend and I opted to stay outside and enjoy the performances of La Santa Cecilia, the Crossroads School Jazz Ensemble and the Santa Monica College Emeritus Gospel Community Chorus. I loved the energy of each of the groups I saw, and I must admit that I’d like to join that Gospel chorus. Is there anything more elevating than talented people sharing what they love?
The crowds were lively and joined in the spirit of the event—young and not so young patrons danced along with the musicians. It was an easy, free way to appreciate something that we all had in common (regardless of age, race or gender).
I hope we all keep discovering this side of Los Angeles!
I caught a showing of To Rome with a friend last night, and while we were talking on the street after the film, I was taken with the way the palm trees and street lamps mirrored one another. Alas, I couldn’t quite get it right– I needed a ladder to avoid the glare and get the framing right. Still, Wilshire at dusk captured my attention.
I have a strange relationship with Venice, CA. There are things about it that I love: great restaurants, interesting art galleries and some shopping that would be enticing if I had any money. I love the colors of the city: a building can be painted “Easter Egg Blue” or “Ashes of Roses” and fit with the theme. These are all big pluses and huge draws.
The bohemian element alternately entices and repels depending on exactly how bohemian and whether or not I’ve found parking. What can I say; I can get cranky.
This summer I have attempted to explore more of the area. Even if I live in Los Angeles 20 years, I’ll always feel like a tourist in Venice. This morning that meant grabbing some nosh and watching that tiny bit of the world awaken.
On the third Sunday of every month, Campanile holds a large-scale wine tasting. Approximately 30 wines are available for sampling, along with a little bit of food to keep you steady (and it’s excellent). According to their website, the best of these sampled wines will be available on their wine list in the weeks following that particular tasting.
This was my first time at Campanile (Pen knows all the great places I need to try). The restaurant space is gorgeous– I was really taken by the design and the feel of the place. Now that I’ve had a sampling, I definitely want to go back for a full meal some time soon.
This Sunday’s tasting was billed as “Australia Rediscovered.” There were 10 tables set up with a wide variety of options (taste-wise, as well as price-wise) with the pours offered by K&L. In addition to discovering Campanile for the first time, I discovered the 2007 Turkey Flat Grenache Barossa Valley. I thought it was tremendous and the expert on hand doing the pours said that the source vines were more than 90 years old. It was very smooth. I personally thought there was a lot of “berry” going on, but I’ll let you try it and make up your own mind.
The next tasting isn’t until September 16, but if you are into wines from Argentina, Chile, Uruguay and Mexico, get your tickets now.
art gallery, Bob Dylan, Brad Elterman, California, David Bowie, Duran Duran, exhibit, Food, Il Vecchio, Italian, Joan Jett, Kana Manglapus, Madonna, Pacific Grove, Restaurant, rock stars, Sex Pistols, Venice, wine
Today brings two recommendations: one near and one far (to me).
Nestled amidst the shops and fabulous restaurants in Venice is an art gallery that you might miss if you aren’t paying close attention. The place is small and unassuming, but it boasts a selection of photographs at the moment that you don’t want to miss—particularly if you are a fan of 1970s/1980s music. Photographer Brad Elterman has an exhibit up showcasing rock star photos (literally) from locales around Los Angeles.
The prints are for sale, and, as these things go, not outrageously priced. Of course, I’m a broke girl wandering the city, so my checkbook wouldn’t do much good in this situation. Still, there is a candid of Duran Duran that one of my friends would die for (or at least she would have at 16)! Joan Jett’s photo made me laugh and the photo of the Grease after-party made me feel like I was watching fame happen (the awkward crush of people surrounding the leads is uncomfortable, yet compelling).
The exhibition is open until mid-September, so the next time you are strolling through the streets of Venice, be sure to stop.
I’ll admit that this is a place I never would have found on my own. I had gone to the tasting room for Carmel Ridge Winery (700 Cannery Row, Monterey, CA) and got into conversation with the men running the tasting room (highly unusual for me, I know). Pablo asked me where I was headed for dinner, and when I told him I had no plans, he recommended Il Vecchio (http://ilvecchiorestaurant.com/). Because I didn’t know the area, I was initially reluctant to make dinner plans in Pacific Grove, thinking that it was too far away, etc. Not so!
I went pretty traditional with my choices. I had tagliolini alla carbonara which I quite liked and a tiramisu that put a smile on my face (Pablo also highly recommended the pollo con marsala). The wine was excellent and plentiful (“sad” girl dining alone bonus pour!), and I was sat in a section that had windows overlooking the water. To top it all off, the service was terrific—friendly and helpful without being intrusive.
As a tip: do make reservations for the restaurant because even if the tourists don’t know it exists, the locals definitely do.
In keeping with my current theory that the wonders close to home can be as much fun as the wonders far away, I hit the Malibu Arts Festival on Sunday. This particular festival has been put on for the last 41 years—naturally, this means that this summer was my first time there. How I have missed this in previous years remains a mystery. The festival was wall to wall artists as well as local businesses, many a food truck and some great entertainment. Plus, it was free. You can’t beat a free day in the Malibu sunshine.
Sadly, I’m still broke, so none of the artwork (or amazing silver jewelry) made it home with me. I did, however, indulge in my most recent pastime: envisioning what kind of home would be best to showcase artwork I love. That probably sounds strange, but the reality is that I live in a small, one-bedroom apartment, and it just wouldn’t do justice to some of the large-scale art pieces that had me mesmerized. For instance, an eight foot painting of Venice, Italy really captured my imagination (and my deep desire to return to the city), but none of the walls of my home would do it justice. I saw a fascinating sculpture called “The Decision” (sadly, not pictured) that I seriously contemplated– but my apartment isn’t much of a showcase. There are mounds of paper everywhere, so unless I bought it to use as a very expensive paperweight, it wouldn’t really fit. Yet.
Something that I think everyone should watch out for is Wanawake Handbags and Accessories. Ever since my hand-woven, colored straw summer bag died, I’ve been on the hunt for something to replace it. Wanawake’s colorful bags were very reasonably priced and gorgeous! One warning of caution, some of the bags that were on display were huge, so be sure to check out the dimensions before you purchase. I’m a very short person, and some of the display bags would have been larger than my entire torso. That didn’t stop me from wanting them, of course, but then I like to pretend that I’m actually 5’10” so…. The good news is that there are smaller bags that are just as fabulous for the more diminutive among us. Their new website isn’t up yet, but keep an eye out for it here: http://www.wanawakehandbags.com/
To check out photos of the artwork and ambiance, head over to the Malibu Arts Festival Facebook page!
It should come as no surprise that I have an entire folder full of random (and not so random) color photos from the road. These are really snapshots of mood, for the most part. While a few of them are clearly identifiable as being a particular location (like Hearst Castle or the Carmel Mission), there are some that are just images from along the road (or bridge I was traveling)– and yes, I mean this literally.